Summertime is fast approaching. Many e-tailers embrace this time of year with excitement, while others are plagued with fear. Why? The difference lies in that some e-tailers sell products that are ripe for the summer months--think a swimsuit apparel e-tailer--while others who sell ski equipment may be bracing for a few slow months.

It's always been my experience--unbiased, of course as a marketer--that e-tailers should be spending on marketing when times are good as well as when they are bad. Spending on marketing when times are good usually ensures you of taking a larger slice of the pie, while spending when times are bad ensures you a better chance of overall business survival and recovery.

So if the summer doldrums stand to affect your business, you should be looking at stepping up your search marketing efforts. Search marketing works--and works well--because it puts the customer in the driver's seat. Web shoppers are searching for specific products and services--your products and services--using major search engines. Helping them find you when they're ready to commit or spend can close sales for your business. That's where search marketing comes in.

Though natural or organic search--whereby a website's owner optimizes its content with relevant keywords--is a must for any e-tailer, there is no guarantee on placement. That means your website could be shoved down to page three of the results. Today, pay-per-click search is a growing option and has become a must-have in driving traffic to e-tail websites.

Pay-per-click search works on a keyword-based, bidding process. Essentially, e-tailers create a small text ad, select a geo-territory (local, regional, nationwide), upload a bunch of keywords that describe their products or services, and then individually bid against competitors for the "top positions." Google and Yahoo! account for a very high percentage of searches, making Google AdWords and Yahoo! / Overture's services a must in your arsenal. However,,, 7Search, ABC Search, and Search Feed are others that account for a very high percentage of the pay-per-click market.

As an e-tailer, you've made a commitment to sell online--period. The only way to ensure that the commitment will pay off is to ensure you're reaching the highest percentage of people searching for your types of products and services. Exposure to potential buyers is the only way you can be fully in the game.

The bottom line is that you can't rely on one method only. Business owners need to constantly test their search marketing efforts. While you may be enjoying Google AdWords, it's logical that a test budget for Yahoo!, MSN, or is in order But just like you've done in the past with other marketing initiatives, you must be diligent in ensuring that you know what's working, and the only way to do this is to track and measure to the best of your company's abilities. Be sure to understand where your traffic is coming from and how much of it is converting to sales, because at the end of the day your efforts need to impact your revenue. If they're not, it's time to re-examine your search initiatives.